Today we’d like to introduce you to our new Travel Insurance Ambassador and founder of The Travel Hack, Monica Stott.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Monica and I’m a travel blogger from North Wales. I caught the travel bug when I was 21 when I went backpacking around Asia and Australia. My boyfriend and I bought an old campervan and drove around the entire coast of Australia and we haven’t stopped travelling since!
That boyfriend is now my fiancé and we have two children and a dog but still travel as much as possible. Our trips aren’t quite as adventurous as they once were, but we’ve enjoyed taking our kids on exciting holidays such as to the Maldives and Dubai as well as lots of European holidays too.
I now travel for a living and I usually go away twice a month. I write about my travels and make short videos from my adventures for my blog, The Travel Hack.
When did you start blogging about your travels and why?
I started blogging while backpacking in Asia and I did it for a few reasons. This was in 2009 and barely anyone blogged in comparison to today and social media wasn’t nearly as big as it is now.
I blogged to have a record of my travels and I used it like an online journal. It was a great way to keep my friends and family up to date and I loved reading back through my posts.
After a few months, other people started to read my blog and I loved being able to help people plan their travels. In 2009, most small guest houses and tour operators didn’t have websites so it was lovely to be able to send business their way through my blog.
I also wanted to be a journalist. I thought a blog would be a good way to practice my writing and might help me get jobs in the future. I had no idea my blog would become my job and 10 years later I still love blogging and sharing my travels with the world.
What’s the best place you’ve ever travelled to?
That’s such a tough question but it has to be Iceland. The landscapes are so dramatic and there’s a magical atmosphere with all the billowing steam from the geysers and hot springs.
The first time I visited Iceland was in October and it was just perfection. There was snow on the ground but the sky was blue and clear and we road-tripped from waterfalls to glaciers to black sand beaches covered in icy boulders. The nightlife in the capital, Reykjavik, is also really good with lots of live music and craft beer.
Can you recommend an underrated travel destination?
Ljubljana in Slovenia is definitely an underrated place for a city break. It’s a beautiful city with so much character and charm and great places to eat and drink along the river. It’s close to Lake Bled which is absolutely stunning and a must-visit for a day trip from the city.
You can also ski within driving distance of Ljubljana so it’s a great place to base yourself for an action-packed activity holiday or just a chilled weekend in the city.
You can’t always find direct flights to Ljubljana but you can fly into Venice and take a shuttle from there. Venice is one of those big, bucket list destinations so it would be great to combine Venice and Slovenia into one holiday!
Which destination has surprised you the most?
Dominica in the Caribbean was a complete surprise as it’s so unlike the other Caribbean islands I’ve visited. It’s known as the nature island and is all about adventurous activities like hiking up to waterfalls and soaking in natural hot springs.
I combined an adventurous trip there with a stay in an incredible tree house. We did yoga each morning overlooking the treetops and I cycled to the nearby beaches which were always completely deserted. It’s just a one-hour flight from Barbados to Dominica but it felt a million miles away! This is a real hidden gem and you won’t find many British tourists there.
This is another holiday that’s great as a dual-destination trip. I’d fly to Barbados and have a few days relaxing at a big hotel on the beach and then fly to Dominica for the fun part!
Where do you think has the best food?
Thailand! The food in Thailand is delicious and you’ll usually have the best meals at tiny road-side market stalls or at remote beach cafes.
I spent nearly two months in Thailand and didn’t crave a single European meal the whole time I was there. My favourite dishes were spicy red curries served with sticky rice and spring rolls on the side, and Pad Thai.
What’s your top travel hack to save money on your travels?
My top tip is to book flights as far in advance as possible and book hotels as late as you dare! Flights rarely go down in price and the ticket prices usually just go up and up.
Hotels are a different story as you can often negotiate on the price because if they have an empty room they’ll want to fill it! Contact hotels directly and see if you can strike a deal.
What’s your top tip to pack light?
Keep your case light by cutting down on shoes and whatever you’re wearing on the bottom half, whether that’s trousers, shorts or skirts. Jeans and shoes are bulky and, unless they’re particularly special, people rarely notice them! You’ll save lots of space for all those tops and accessories and still have room left over.
What’s the one place you’d love to go to?
New Zealand is at the top of my bucket list right now. I’d love to go for a few months and hire a campervan to drive around both islands.